updated on May 8th, 2019
Lake Tahoe is a fantastic vacation destination. There’s casinos, live shows, a beautiful lake waiting for you to jet-ski and kayak. The beaches fill up quickly in the summer, and the winter is a skier’s paradise. So, how do you decide between staying in North Lake Tahoe vs. South Lake Tahoe?
South vs. North Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe is an adventure-filled, thriving city with plenty to do.
North Lake Tahoe is quieter, laid-back and feels like a small town. However, it’s easy to drive around the lake and get the best of both worlds!
Since Lake Tahoe is so beautiful and picture-perfect in every season, we would rather enjoy it quietly. The casinos, outdoor adventures, and shopping are really fun, but at the end of the day we love the feeling of being secluded in the woods, smelling the pine trees, and wondering if we’ll see a bear wandering by. So, when offered the choice, we’ll choose North Tahoe.
Things to do in North Lake Tahoe
If you are on I-80, you will find the small town of Targhee nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains about 30 minutes west of Reno. Targhee has groceries, some hotels, a brewery or two, and is a great pit-stop before heading to the lake. While you’re there, also check out Donner Lake and the Donner Memorial Museum, because the scenery is only matched by the amount of the area’s history.
Once you venture south from Truckee towards Lake Tahoe, you’ll take a beautiful road through Squaw Valley, where the 1960 Winter Olympics were held. There’s plenty to see but it still feels quiet and serene.
You will eventually emerge in Tahoe City, which again is a very small town along the lake. There are numerous lodging options and restaurants, which range from budget-friendly to country-club.
Lonely Planet’s guidebook to Northern California has tons of things to do in Lake Tahoe! Use code BOLDTOURIST10 to receive 10% off your purchase!
Venturing south down the western shore, we also discovered the quaint town of Tahoma. There are a few cabin rentals and small hotels in this area, all within easy walking distance to the lake.
Both Tahoe City and Tahoma are along the lake and so much more laid-back than the high energy areas of South Lake Tahoe. You can also find a few beaches that allow on-leash dogs.
Read more on cozy cabin stays in Lake Tahoe.
One of the best things about staying near the northwestern coast of Lake Tahoe is that you can reach all of the excitement of South Lake Tahoe during your stay, no matter the season. Because this area is so popular, it is kept well-plowed during the winter. The drive around the edge of the lake to South Lake Tahoe takes about an hour, but there is plenty to see along the way. You can go the southern route and view the majestic Emerald Bay. If you chose to do the northern route, you will go past Kings Beach and Crystal Bay.
Our personal suggestion is to make a day of doing the entire loop around the lake, stopping to enjoy meals at the many restaurants in Lake Tahoe, and enjoying the many views along the road.
Start your North Tahoe hotel search with Booking.com! They have some of the best rates available and have search options like pet-friendly lodging and unique properties.
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